On June 24, Joshua Franco (18-1-1, 8 KOs, 1 NC) returns to Japan to defend his WBA super flyweight title against Kazuto Ioka (29-2-1). The bout will mark the second meeting between the pair after their first fight ended in a majority draw. At the time, Franco’s WBA and Ioka’s WBO title were at stake. Now, however, only Franco’s belt will remain on the line after Ioka relinquished his in order to pursue a rematch. Ahead of their rematch, Big Fight Weekend takes a look at Franco’s career so far.
A native of San Antonio, Texas, Franco began his career in August 2015 on a card promoted by Oscar De La Hoya. His brother, Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez, is also a professional boxer and currently holds the WBO flyweight title. With the exception of his last four fights, Franco has spent the entirety of his career fighting on Golden Boy Promotions cards. By the end of 2017, he had a record of 13-0 with six of those wins coming by stoppage. In March 2018, Franco lost his only fight to date against Lucas Fernandez in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Franco dropped Fernandez in the first round and was leading on two of the judges scorecard going into the ninth. A minute into the ninth, Fernandez landed a multitude of rights after which the referee stepped in to stop the fight.
Move to bantamweight
Less than three months after the loss to Fernandez, Franco moved up in weight. In his first fight at this weight class, he won via fifth round stoppage. Not only would his next three fights all take place at bantamweight, they were all against the same opponent: Oscar Negrete. The pair would fight 30 action-packed rounds over a ten month span. Franco won the second fight via unanimous decision while the other two bouts ended in split draws. After the third clash, Franco moved back down to super flyweight.
Road to world champion
Franco began 2020 with a stoppage win to mark his return to super flyweight. In June of that year, he received the call to face Andrew Moloney for the WBA’s secondary super flyweight title. Despite being the underdog, Franco dropped Moloney in the eleventh and claimed a unanimous decision to win the title. After a controversial ending to their rematch in which Franco’s eye was deemed to have been damaged from an accidental headbutt, the pair meet for a third time in August of 2021. This time, Franco ensured there was no controversy by once again defeating Moloney via a unanimous decision.
Following his trilogy with Moloney, Franco did not fight again for roughly 16 months before taking on Ioka. During that period, he was ordered to consolidate WBA titles against Juan Francisco Estrada. However, Estrada chose to vacate his title and went on to fight Argi Cortez and Roman Gonzalez. As a result, the WBA promoted Franco and he became the organization’s sole super flyweight titlist.
How to watch Franco vs. Ioka
As of now, there are no confirmed broadcast details for the fight outside of Japan. Viewers in Japan can purchase the event as a PPV from Abema. According to Tim Boxeo, fight fans outside of Japan can also purchase the event with a Japanese VPN. Main event ring walks are expected 9:00 a.m. ET but is subject to change due to the length of undercard fights.